DDOT and SMART bring back fares March 15. Is it the right time?

DDOT and SMART plan to start charging fares again on March 15.

But why should riders start paying full fares for less than full service?

A DDOT driver behind one of the new protective plexiglass barriers.

Fares were suspended last year as part of COVID safety efforts, in order to reduce the amount of time riders spend next to the driver and enable back door boarding to keep drivers safe. With new plexiglass barriers installed and the majority of drivers vaccinated, that is less of a concern. 

Still, TRU and other bus advocates wonder if this is the right moment to reinstate fares, with historic levels of unemployment and financial hardship widespread, in a city that already has high unemployment and poverty rates. The base fare remains $2, which may not sound like much on its own. But if you’re traveling to and from a job five days a week, that’s $20 you now have to come up with each week just to get to work–not necessarily easy in a moment when so many families have lost income. TRU is concerned about the impact of bringing back fares on people and families who have lost work or income during this time.

Service itself remains limited, with long waits as a result of COVID safety limitations on how many passengers can ride at once, and ongoing issues with driver shortages. The ridership cap has increased, but there still need to be more buses on the road to support our essential riders. (Watch the blog for a piece about these service issues in the next few days.) If we aren’t back to full service, which already includes 1 hour headways on some routes, why charge full price? 

“It just doesn’t make sense to have fares right now…”

Detroit People’s Platform & Motor City Freedom Riders protest fare reinstatement

On March 15th, TRU also joined ally groups Motor City Freedom Riders and Detroit People’s Platform for a demonstration outside Rosa Parks Transit Center. Together, protestors stood in solidarity with bus riders, having conversations about the impact of fares and the difficult adjustment to being charged again.

“DDOT should not be reinstating fares!” one protestor remarked. “We have COVID out here still going on, buses not even at 50% (capacity)….people are still sturggling to make ends meet. It just doesn’t make sense to have fares right now.”

Motor City Freedom Rider’s Idrees Mutahr agrees, now is not the time to collect from working Detroiters. “It is unacceptable that they are restoring fares when service is not still fully running. Bus riders are still being left behind” he comments.

Because we’ve seen questions about what the fares will be, a 4-hour pass remains $2. Fares, when reinstated, will be the same as they were before. Remember that you can pay your fare using the DART App for a touch-free bus payment. Here’s a fare chart to help explain fares:

A chart showing DDOT's different fares
DDOT’s current fares.

Here is more detail on DDOT’s fares, and a link to SMART’s fare page for more information.

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